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Arts & Entertainment - Reviews

Review: St Katharine's School Art Week

Milo at the 'Shedstallation', which was decorated with the names of pupilsMilo at the 'Shedstallation', which was decorated with the names of pupilsMilo (9) reports from Art Week at St Katharine’s School

All this week I have just been doing my favourite subject, art, at St Katharine's primary school.

First I made a prayer flag. The Nepalese use elements of the earth on the cloth, and people hang them up high in the Himalayas. My element was fire.

We started on a draft sheet then went on to the real thing. I made a bright multi-coloured sun. We next spray painted our names on the school shed. I asked if mine could be right at the top, and I spray painted the 'M' in my name.

Shortly after, I went back in the class and everyone was drawing a dragonfly. We drew the dragonfly step-by-step in our sketch books. When I was almost finished Mrs Arnold, our teacher, told us to stop.

I was really proud with my dragonfly. We started a frog but shortly after the first stage I had to go to singing lessons; when I returned everyone had nearly finished.

On Tuesday, Penny's mum (Penny is a classmate) came in and showed us a colourwheel and how to draw fruit with a good background colour. Afterwards we made our clay tiles inspired by pictures of a pond, taken by Mrs Arnold.

On Wednesday we drew two other step-by-step sketches. The first was a bird - I think - a black bird. The second, a king fisher - I was very proud with both of them.

On Thursday I could paint watercolours on our kingfisher, dragonfly or frog; I nearly finished my dragonfly. We also weaved sticks with wool. I made a frame but most of the time I had to help everyone on my table. Luckily I finished but I was exhausted!

On Friday we drafted a Greek pot. We were meant to charcoal it on orange sugar paper, but I never got to that bit. Then we looked around our school pop-up art gallery with all the children's work created in St. Katharine's that week.

So all in all, a very busy week.

I've probably forgotten a lot of art I enjoyed. Just goes to show how busy I've been.

Origami fishOrigami fishPlaster cast leavesPlaster cast leavesPond life sculpturesPond life sculptures

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REVIEW: The school at Lockeridge - from icy cold winters to the arrival of the first BBC computer

A Village Education - The History of the School at Lockeridge by Ruth Lamdin (2015)

 

The building looks much the same as it did in the 1870s - though it has been expanded and, of course, modernised.  But what goes on inside Lockeridge School and the lives of its pupils has changed dramatically.

This is Ruth Lamdin's second history of a local school.  Her first told the story of the now defunct East Kennett school.  This book travels two miles from East Kennett to follow Lockeridge's village school as it developed over 120 years - up to the point the two schools were joined in a federation.

One of the advantages of the coming of universal education is that it allows us to take a close look at social history at a truly local level.  The history of earlier schools in the Parish of Overton cum Fyfield is now largely lost.

Ruth Lamdin, who lives locally, records: "In 1858, thirty infants were taught by an old woman in a cottage kitchen in Overton."  Twenty years later and the state was involving itself in their education.

She has mined the school log books kept so carefully by the head teachers at the school in Lockeridge and now held by the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives in Chippenham.  They record the arrival of a supply of "Pens, Ink, Paper, Pencils, Chalk and Penholders" in 1883 to this entry in 1983: "Today I collected the school's BBC computer from County Hall."

The Forster Education Act of 1870 made it possible for children aged from five to thirteen to be taught in 'elementary' schools - compulsory schooling to the age of ten became law in 1880.

From the decision to build a school in the village to its opening took just over four years.  That certainly beats the long and tortuous gestation period for Marlborough's new primary school!

In 1870, the impetus to start the school came from the government's decision to make a grant of £208 towards the £1,008 tender price for the building.  Another impetus was the Agricultural Children Act (1873) which ruled that children between eight and ten could only work on the land if they had received a set number of hours schooling.

Despite this law, there was in the school's early years friction between the need to educate and local farmers' need to employ young, cheap and agile labour.

The curriculum, Mrs Lamdin makes clear, originally concentrated on the Three-Rs with a strong element of religious instruction.  The introduction of a wider range of subjects - from carpentry to embroidery - was both gradual and erratic.

However from one entry in in the archived reports it looks as though one of the roles for PE - or 'drill' - was to keep the pupils warm in winter:  "January 1891 - Weather is so bitter that children are grouped in the middle of the room and do drill between every lesson to keep warm."

The first heating at the school - a Tortoise Slow Combustion Stove - was installed in 1899.  It is good too to be reminded that rural Lockeridge only got electricity in 1947 and mains water in the 1960s.  School meals began in 1943 - when family life was badly affected by husbands' absence in the services and wives were working in the fields.

A photo from the book: the playground in the 1940s - when hoops were made of woodA photo from the book: the playground in the 1940s - when hoops were made of woodRuth Lamdin takes the history in easy to follow themed sections.  So under 'Health' we learn of early efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of pupils through interventions at school - from dentistry, to measuring their weight to, in 1941, the start of a programme of immunisation against diptheria.

One of the most interesting aspects of this story is the role of women on the school's staff. The first head teacher, Miss Elizabeth Axton (from Salisbury Training College and on £50 a year) began with 43 children and was assisted by a 'monitor' - Eva Wallis. But eighteen months after the opening with pupil numbers rising, Miss Axton wrote "...the Managers consider it desirable to have a Master."

There was no other female head of the school until Mrs Goode appeared in 1940 - when men were in short supply.  When she retired in 1948 the Managers again wanted a headmaster.  But from 1881 to 1983 all but two of the assistant teachers were female.

Ruth Lamdin wonders why men were preferred.  At East Kennett most head teachers up to the last quarter of the twentieth century were women: "However, judging by the annual reports at Lockeridge, the men do not seem to have had noticeably more success than the women in raising standards."

The author gives life to the smiling - often grinning - faces that look out at us from the group photos - official and unofficial - that illustrate her book. It is a book that tells us an important part of the history of the local area.


Both books can be bought from the author: 

the Lockeridge history is £6 and the East Kennett history is £5 - or £10 for both - plus postage and packing.  

She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 01672 861550.

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Review: Ashley Fripp brings brilliance - and some devilry - to his St Peter's Church recital

Ashley FrippAshley FrippThe penultimate recital of the Fourth Series of ‘Brilliant Young Musicians in Saint Peter’s Church’ saw a welcome return visit by Ashley Fripp. He first played in Saint Peter’s church in September 2012 - in the first series of these recitals.  

Ashley studied at the Purcell School and has recently graduated with distinction from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he was awarded the Premium Prix and the Lord Mayor’s Prize.  He has played in most of the great concert halls in Europe as well as the Carnegie Hall in New York, and, as a ‘rising star’, he has received many awards, as well as winning third prize in the Leeds International Piano Competition.

A very enthusiastic and appreciative audience was proud to welcome him back to Saint Peter’s.

His recital opened with JS Bach’s Second English Suite in A Minor.  The suites of dances are known as ‘English’ possibly because they were commissioned by an English patron, but that is not certain. English dances, they certainly are not.  

An amazingly precocious prelude introduces the dances which begin with a stately and courtly allemande, courante, and a sarabande before finishing with three much more bucolic peasant dances, two bourees (a dance from the Auvergne) and a gigue, which possibly did originate in Britain.

Ashley’s mastery of the Bach counterpoint was magnificent while in the first of the bourees he highlighted the hints of a bagpipe and then captured the whirling energy of the gigue.

Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit was in complete contrast. These three dark and mysterious works were inspired by poems written in the 1820’s by Aloysius Bertrand. ‘Gaspard’ is a sinister figure, the name being derived from the Persian  meaning  ‘ treasurer’, or ‘keeper’ of dark things. May be Gaspard is the Devil himself. They are ‘Gothick’ tales very much in the style of Mary Shelley.

Ondine is the beautiful water sprite who leads the captivated to the dark and cold waters of the lake. The seductress is portrayed in shimmering chords and rippling arpeggios.  Le Gibet, the most macabre of the three poems, portrays a gallows silhouetted against a flaming sunset, the cadaver helplessly  swinging in the evening breeze. The mournful tolling bell from the city nearby, a single monotonously repeated B flat, helps create the ghastly image described in the poem.  

The third piece, Scarbo, describes the night-time mischief of a goblin, who appears, then disappears, scratches the wall, leapfrogs round the room before finally disappearing. Perhaps it is the malignant Scarbo who is the Devil himself.    

Ravel brilliantly portrays the macabre horror of these three pieces. Not only were they brilliantly played, but Ashley read each of the poems before playing the appropriate piece. What a difference that made to the audience’s understanding of the work.      

The second half of the concert was given over to works by Franz Liszt. Ashley began with Les jeux d’eau a la Villa d’Este.  On his visit to Italy Liszt had seen the glittering fountains in the garden of the Villa d’Este at Tivoli, and this work dramatically evokes both the sound and sight of these fountains.  Technically very challenging, Ashley’s mastery of the glittering arpeggios and shimmering chords captured the light reflecting off the cascading water on a summer’s day.

This was followed by the Sonata in B Minor. Completed in 1853 it remains a tour de force for any pianist.  Although it is written in sonata form, the movements do relate one to the other, so it seems to be one continuous movement.  It is full of darkness and light...good and evil.

The work begins with a foreboding descending scale, and the movement is punctuated  by a repeating phrase which sounds like a satirical laugh, perhaps the Devil himself. All the darkness is dispelled in a glorious theme, like an expansive burst of sunshine which Ashley played with sheer joy.

The second movement has a gentle and reflective chorale-like theme of blissful eloquence played with such lyrical delicacy. The final movement, an allegro, begins with a furious fugue based on the laughter theme, to which all the previous themes return in a virtuosic and manic recapitulation which had Ashley bouncing up and down on his stool.

Finally the work dissolves into a gentle benediction, the diabolical laughter theme growling away, subdued by the forces of good. What a conclusion:  the descending scale fading to a single staccato note, and then silence.  

The playing was superb, showing not only a technical mastery of Liszt’s demanding work, but also a mature understanding of the conflicting themes of darkness and light. It was indeed some of the finest playing we have heard in this church. Ashley amazed us all with his formidable memory and his seemingly effortless technique.  Please come again.

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Ruby Squares: Marlborough area embroiderers' mark their 40th anniversary with an exhibition

[Click on image to enlarge it][Click on image to enlarge it]Centre stage - literally - at the Marlborough and District Branch of the Embroiderers' Guild exhibition at the Kennet Valley Hall in Lockeridge, are the embroidered squares members were asked to make to mark the branch's fortieth birthday.  

Preparing for the Ruby Birthday last autumn, Chairman Yvonne Miles challenged members to create ten inch squares using ruby red with a splash of another colour.  The results are stunning as a mass exhibit - and intriguing as you look more carefully at the individual squares.

In some ways this extensive exhibition charts embroidery's progression from complex stitching towards what they now call 'textile art' - using many different techniques and materials. Although this still uses many basic embroidery methods and stitches - it can provide a freer and more liberating creative inspiration.

Indeed there is some talk of trying to persuade the central Embroiderers' Guild organisation to change its name to reflect this wider use of new and different techniques and the growing appeal of 'textile art'.

On permanent display in the Kennet Valley Hall is the Guild's 'Upper Kennet Valley Embroidery' - the Hall is where the branch holds its monthly meetings.   For this exhibition another major work has been loaned by the Friends of Savernake Hospital.  In 1981 Marlborough area embroiderers created a striking display depicting great and influential women - details pictured below.  

Coco ChanelCoco Chanel Barbara HepworthBarbara Hepworth Amy Johnson Amy Johnson

The hanging was created by a group of ladies under the guidance of a tutor, Kay Norris, who taught at Chippenham College.  But further than that little is known about the hanging - and branch members are keen to find out more.  If anyone has any information about the origins of this hanging they are asked to contact the Branch.

Thirty-five years later the choice of women and the techniques used give us a fascinating glance back in time.  It certainly begs the question who would the members choose for a repeat performance next year and what would a new display look like?

Detail of Nichola Vesey Williams' 'New York, New York'Detail of Nichola Vesey Williams' 'New York, New York'The branch has a Young Embroiderers Group with members between six and eighteen years. 

Their 'Tree of Hands' in the exhibition [detail at left] is really eye-catching and shows a strongly imaginative use of materials.

One wonders how 'embroidery' and 'textile art' will have developed by the time the branch celebrates its fiftieth anniversary.

The exhibition is open today (Sunday, April 24) and on Monday till 4.30pm.  Full details here.


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Records tumble as Open Studios comes of age

David Dudley and Open Studios chairman Lisi AshbridgeDavid Dudley and Open Studios chairman Lisi AshbridgeIt has been a year of tumbling records for 2016’s Marlborough Open Studios, a preview of which opened to the public this morning (Friday).

The scheme, now in its 21st year, has finally reached the milestone of exhibiting 80 artists, while the geographical boundaries of ‘Marlborough’ have been stretched to encompass Rowde (west of Devizes), Radley Bottom (east of Hungerford), Hodson (north of Chiseldon) and Tedworth House, south of Tidworth.

And eager collectors are already snapping up art. Even before the preview show at Marlborough College’s Mount House Gallery – where price tags range from £40 to £5,000 – had opened to the public, 18 pieces were sold at a VIP evening hosted by lead sponsor David Dudley.

Sioban Coppinger and mayor Margaret Rose with Spring in Step, a shoe of ash leaves in cast bronzeSioban Coppinger and mayor Margaret Rose with Spring in Step, a shoe of ash leaves in cast bronzeHis company designs its own jewellery and sources distinctive pieces from across the UK and Europe.

Art, he told his guests, is all around us “and we are lucky to have so many artists of great national acclaim” in the Marlborough area.

Among the guests at last night’s VIP launch was mayor Margaret Rose who, with her late husband Bernard, ran an art gallery in Ramsbury. She snapped up a painting of an owl by Burbage-based wildlife artist Debbie Blount.

Simone Dawood with Hackpen Rape. Her abstract landscapes are inspired by dog walks along the RidgewaySimone Dawood with Hackpen Rape. Her abstract landscapes are inspired by dog walks along the RidgewayAnother purchased piece was an intricate textile sculpture by royal milliner and first-time exhibitor Jane Corbett, who will be showing with photographer Deborah Husk at Alton Priors.

Open Studios chairman Lisi Ashbridge was at pains to point out the extensive range of art on offer: from massive sculptures by blacksmith Melissa Cole, whose forge and studio is on the A4 midway between Marlborough and Froxfield, to intricate pieces of jewellery by first-timer Theresa Hing, from East Garston across the Berkshire border, and a miniature representation of the houses on The Green at Aldbourne, made in driftwood by Baydon artist Kareen Jackson.

Practitioners in oils, watercolours, pencil, ink and charcoal, join sculptors, glass workers, wood turners, photographers, ceramicists and calligraphers in throwing open their doors across 42 locations.

Jenny Arthy is teaching art to wounded soldiers at Help for Heroes HQ Tedworth House as part of their therapy. Fittingly, one of her drawings features a knight on horseback fighting a dragonJenny Arthy is teaching art to wounded soldiers at Help for Heroes HQ Tedworth House as part of their therapy. Fittingly, one of her drawings features a knight on horseback fighting a dragonEvery year the Open Studios committee grants a bursary to an emerging artist, and this year the bursary has been awarded to wounded soldiers Martin Wade and Richey Burnett, who are following a City & Guilds course in painting at Tedworth House - HQ of the charity Help for Heroes - under the tutelage of Jenny Arthy.

The Open Studios preview show runs from 10am until 5pm on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and from 10am until 3pm on Tuesday.

The Open Studios art trail is held over the first four weekends in July. For details, log on to www.marlboroughopenstudios.co.uk

 

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JS Bach, Beethoven and Chopin at St Peter's Church: was this the best recital of the current series?

Kausikan RajeshkumarKausikan RajeshkumarThe April recital in the ‘Brilliant Young Pianists at Saint Peter’s Church’ series was given by Kausikan Rajeshkumar, who was born in London in 1990.   Kausikan was offered scholarships at both the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music, but chose to read music at Cambridge graduating with a first class honours degree.  

He was one of the piano finalists in the BBC Young Musician of the Year competitions in 2006 and 2008, before winning the International Franz Liszt Prize for Young Pianists in 2009.  Among his many engagements in Great Britain and elsewhere in Europe, he performed in the Royal College of Music ‘s ‘Rising Stars’ series at the Cadogan Hall.  

He began his Marlborough recital with JS Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No.18 which was published in the first volume of his ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’.   Written in a minor key, the work is sombre and reflective.

Brilliantly crafted, the first movement is a rising thematic figure passed from one hand to another, and played with such clarity as to clearly expose the structure of the movement. The stately fugue that followed was played with feeling and delicacy - the notes flowing seamlessly from Kausikan’s hands.

This was followed by a late Beethoven Sonata: No.30 in E Major. What a contrast in tonality. The bright major key creating a dramatically different mood from the Bach. The first movement is lyrical and flowing, creating a sense of tenderness which is suddenly shattered by the demotic opening chords of the powerful prestissimo.
The last movement begins with a wonderful plangent melody, surely one of the finest that Beethoven wrote. 

This then heralds a series of variations of increasing complexity, one of which is so rich in counterpoint as to be reminiscent of JS Bach. Finally calm is restored and the initial melody returns, lovingly and gently played, Kausikan’s whole body enfolded in the music. This was a performance of great intensity and passion.

The second half of the concert was largely devoted to Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestucke (Fantasy Pieces.) These were inspired by a series of novellas written by the German author Hoffman and were dedicated to a young Scottish pianist.  The eight miniatures are very varied, some are reflective and elegiac, others more agitated and passionate.

The wind can be heard gently rustling in the trees in ‘In der Nacht’ while ‘Traumes Wirren’ is a joyous and effervescent riot of notes. ‘Ende von Lied’ begins in great solemnity and then appropriately, dies away to nothing.  Kuasikan played these with grace and sensitivity, highlighting the contrast in mood, but always retaining the emotional intensity which these pieces demand.

Two pieces of Chopin completed the programme.  The Etude Opus 10 No. 8 is a showy piece, requiring great skill from the pianist.  This was fireworks from beginning to end - Kausikan’s hands racing up and down the keyboard in an endless cascade of notes. It was played with consummate skill and confidence.

The Polonaise-Fantasie Opus 61 is quite different. Said to be one of the finest of Chopin’s works, it is a profound and very complex piece, gentle and nostalgic for the most part with a lovely lyrical and calm middle section. The contrast between the fiery outbursts and the reflective and serene moments was beautifully articulated.  

It was a lovely concert with a rich variety of musical styles, and there were many who thought that this was the best they had heard in the series. Kausikan played with musicality, passion and confidence demonstrating a deep understanding of each composer’s intentions.  We wish him well in his career.
      

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St John's students excel in brilliant production of We Will Rock You

 

Front L to R: Rhys Rowlands (Brit), Emma Doyle (Meat), Will Sexton (Galileo) & Rosie Amos (Scaramouche) - with dancersFront L to R: Rhys Rowlands (Brit), Emma Doyle (Meat), Will Sexton (Galileo) & Rosie Amos (Scaramouche) - with dancersWow!  They filled the stage with dancers, they filled the Theatre on the Hill with music and they filled its seats with very enthusiastic audiences. 

This was a highly ambitious production by St John's Academy of the school version of the very adult musical We Will Rock You - and it came off with great aplomb and a display of some truly amazing local talents.

Based on the music of Queen, it tells of a time in the future when the biggest of the big multinational technology corporations has taken over the world (renamed here as iPlanet) and for some weird reason has outlawed the making of music - leaving the young to rely on boring old Radio Ga Ga (cue, of course, for another memorable Queen song.)

Enter Galileo Figaro - or Gazza for short - who has in his head a sort of archaeologist's collection of shards of pop music and broken bits of lyrics from times past.  And who refuses to conform.  

He is played by Will Sexton, who left St John's last year and is spending a year gaining stage experience before going to drama school.  For this production he doubled as Acting Director. 

He has a wonderful voice, which made the most of both the quieter and the more raucous Queen numbers. And he had great fun with the odd words and phrases from all those barely remembered pop lyrics.

All the rest of the cast - and the 34-strong dance troupe and the nine-strong chorus - are current St John's students.  And the director and producer of this triumph was Max Moore, the school's Director of Performance - who had a third role as pianist and conductor of the twelve-strong live band.

Galileo and Scaramouche Galileo and Scaramouche Galileo gets arrested by the music police led by Khashoggi (Sam Austen in black leather - not Armani but M&S - and shades) under orders from Killer Queen (played on the night I watched by Chrissy Lightowler - a part shared with Tamlin Morgan.)

Arrested with Galileo is another cultural and dress-code refusnik who he names Scaramouche - another name of impeccable Queen ancestry.  She was played by Rosie Amos.

This is a part that calls for careful and clever acting and great singing.  Well, Ms Amos has great stage presence, confident movement and a grand voice - and she gave her character a depth I am pretty certain was not foreseen when the musical was written.  She made the story work - especially her on-off-on-again love affair with Gazza.  

Rosie Amos as ScaramoucheRosie Amos as ScaramoucheGalileo persuades Scaramouche to join the underground Bohemians' movement which is trying to revive the live music they long for.   This was the school version, but innuendos and double entendres and some spicy language flew about - all quite in character - and gave Scaramouche some of the evening's best lines.

I did like the way our magazines were seen from the future as 'websites made of paper'.  And I loved the repartee about dreams and when love dies:  When your partner wakes up and tells you about your dream of a rabbit in a bowler hat cooking an omelette for you.

Ellen Trevaskiss as PopEllen Trevaskiss as PopOne highpoint was the Seven Seas of Rhye pub with its bar full of youngsters who have had their brains emptied by the authorities and with barmaid Pop who had escaped, but was nonetheless pretty dippy and hippy. 

Pop gave Ellen Trevaskiss a wonderful chance to entertain us and to sing with fine gusto.

There were several other highpoints:  Killer Queen, living up to her name and laying waste a large number of young girls to Another One Bites the Dust.  The tender duet sung by Will Sexton and Rosie Amos - with those telling lines "There's no place for us, there's no chance for us...Who wants to live for ever."  There were also standout performances by Rhys Rowlands as Brit (that's Brit as, apparently, in Britney Spears) and Emma Doyle as Meat.

If anyone ever tells you again that the Theatre on the Hill has too small a stage and no proper wings, just run this production past them.  The set design included a well-used raised walkway at the back of the stage.  And called for wheel-on scenery of some complexity.  

But more than that, the stage was filled from time to time with 24 dancers - sometimes GaGa Girls and sometimes not!  (I think it was 24 but it was quite hard to count them as they moved so quickly between groupings and movements)  The dancing was of a very high calibre.  

You try athletic movements with that many fit young girls on a stage that size - with no one getting poked in the eye!  They were brilliant and kept in perfect sync.

The boy dancers were that bit younger and showed their skills with some frenzied break dancing.  The direction made the most of the theatre's space with actors tumbling off the stage and exiting through the audience.

The music was excellent and chorus sang clearly with some great Queen harmonies.  Max More directed a humdinger of an evening even at one point adding a shouted intervention from his piano - much to the delight of students in the audience.

The Saturday sell-out performance was the last night of a run that was probably short enough for those with exams coming up, but too short for all those of the cast who were obviously enjoying the whole live stage experience so much.

Now the run is over I do not need to give readers a spoiler alert:  after the curtain call, after the applause had finally died away and the stage had emptied, an offstage voice (Galileo, I think) suddenly said "We've left something out" - and back they came for the most amazing, spine tingling  performance of Bohemian Rhapsody. Wow!

They filled the stage with dancers, lights and music [Photos by Max More] [Click on images to enlarge them] They filled the stage with dancers, lights and music [Photos by Max More] [Click on images to enlarge them]

 

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